The Truth Behind the Numbers

When it comes to online courses, it seems everyone’s shouting numbers from the hilltop.


$50k IN 3 DAYS!!

How I made a gazillion $$$ in 2 MINUTES!!!

And yet, if we dig deeper, there are other numbers that no one is talking about. Numbers like: the percent of refund requests, the percent of drop-offs (people who just stop engaging) and the expenses it took to create the course. I wonder why no one is talking about these numbers?

Probably because most of us use money as a measuring stick for success and internet marketers know that. Well, it’s time for a new measuring stick.

Because if you have a six figure launch, but you’ve got a 20 - 30% refund rate--which is not unrealistic--then your launch may not actually be six figures. Even more important, that high refund rate could mean that your learners aren’t, well, learning. I mean, if 70% of your learners are unhappy, then there's a big chunk of expectations that aren’t being met. How can you fix this?

Ways to Improve Learner Satisfaction

First, let me say that even the best online teachers have a small percentage of refunds. It's going to happen, so don't beat yourself up about it.

That being said, you fix high refunds and low engagement by surveying your learners before you create your course so that you know exactly what they want. Don’t have an existing audience? That’s cool. You can do research to find out where your potential audience hangs out online and see what they’re talking about, struggling with, etc.

(And by the way, the most successful online course creators I know spent one or two years engaging with their loyal fanbase before they created their first course. Maybe they're on to something.)

You fix it by creating a beta course or MVP before you invest tons of money into snazzy video and audio equipment. Use what you have. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars. In fact, you shouldn't spend thousands of dollars if you're making assumptions about what your audience wants. For example, Brennan Dunn found out the hard way that making assumptions about what your learners want can lead to serious lack of engagement.

You've probably heard the cliché statement: content is king. In online courses, outcomes are king. Make sure your course content helps your learners achieve their desired outcome. Create activities for each lesson so they’re taking action, putting the theory into practice. Use Slack or a forum to create an engaged community where they can ask questions and get support.

A Different Stick

So what’s your measuring stick? Does money equal success or does learning equal success?

It should be a combination of both. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something you’ve poured weeks and months of sweat into to be profitable. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about wanting to get paid for your hard work. And truly, if you’ve made a quality course and built a loyal audience, you’ll see the ROI you’re looking for. The two work together.

What I’m saying is do the work before you build the thing. Online courses are a long-haul game. You’ll constantly learn new things about your audience and use them to improve your course. And you should. Because if you’re charging more for the same bullet-point slides you created five years ago, you risk communicating that you value money over your audience.

Don't be that person.

The Next Phase and Your A-Game

So here’s the thing: the first phase of online courses is plateauing.

Online courses are still relatively new. But we’ve reached a point where it’s not just the “A-list” players who are creating them. Anyone can do it.

Technology platforms like Teachable make it possible to easily upload content and charge for it. You can use your smartphone to record yourself. (I'm still amazed at the quality of recorded audio on the iPhone!) The barriers have been lowered. What does this mean? More options and higher expectations.

Which means you have to bring your A-game if you want to stand out as we enter the next phase of online courses. Part of that A-game is having a measuring stick other than money.

So, how will you measure the success of your online course? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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